Vengeance is not justice. You would think career prosecutors would know this, since Justice Robert Jackson famously admonished them to seek the latter. Unfortunately, prosecutors in my backyard are currently pursuing a case of nothing less than full-blown country vengeance, ripping open a twelve-year-old community wound in the process.
Eric Boyd’s murder trial started this week. Boyd is accused of horrifically raping, torturing, and murdering two UT College students, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, twelve years ago. Three other defendants accused of participating in the nightmarish crime are currently serving sentences amounting to life plus cancer. One is on death row.
Boyd, however, is currently on year ten of an eighteen year federal bit for harboring the alleged ringleader of this crime, Lemaricus Davidson.
So why now, twelve years and two murder trials after the fact, is the Knox County District Attorney’s Office hauling Eric Boyd in for Channon Christian and Chris Newsom’s murders?
The DA’s office found a stooge with a motive. George Thomas, one defendant serving two consecutive life sentences with a 25-year kicker, agreed to testify for the State if they reduced his sentence to fifty years, with eighty percent guaranteed.
Thomas is 36. He’s still going to serve forty years under this new deal for his participation in the Christian/Newsom murders. That leaves him a good shot at dying behind bars anyway.
So why come forward now and help throw Eric Boyd under the bus? When you consider the circumstances, it’s easy to see the motive. Thomas knew there was a chance Eric Boyd might actually get out of prison and wanted to make Boyd suffer just as much.
And the Knox County DA’s office made the decision to strike a sweetheart deal with someone already found guilty by two juries for raping, torturing, and murdering Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in one of the most horrifically brutal murders in East Tennessee history.
So the DA’s office gets a willing stooge who’s motivated to say and do anything to make sure Eric Boyd is seen by a trier of fact as a No Good Rat Bastard who Totally Did It. And the DAs have their shot at finally popping their “one that got away” with a guilty verdict.
Is anyone seeing the problem here? Do I need to spell this out in further detail?
Okay, let’s bring out the teaching stick first. I’ve been accused of overusing the Angry Chair Leg of Truth before, so we’ll begin with a softer approach.
None of this is about seeking justice, incentivizing a plea deal, or any job function prosecutors normally perform. This is a trial focused on one goal only: does a man currently serving nearly twenty years in federal prison need to suffer more?
The District Attorney’s office, by bringing the Christian/Newsom murders back into Knox County, is happily reopening a twelve-year-old wound that still sparks a racial divide in the region. Five people of color were accused of raping, torturing, and murdering two white college kids.
All five are behind bars, with one on death row. Eric Boyd’s murder conviction won’t heal any wounds, repair any damage or bring any closure besides a champagne toast in the DA’s office when the jury finds him guilty.
George Thomas, if his testimony proves useful and not entirely incredible, gets to see Eric Boyd die in prison like the rest of the defendants. Hate may be a hell of a motivator, but it doesn’t make Thomas a good actor in this scenario.
And the families of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom get the benefit of reliving one more time, from the lips of a man found guilty of the crime, in graphic detail, the night they lost a son and daughter.
Nothing about this is justice. Nothing about this is fair. To call this a trial in the criminal justice system would be an insult to an already broken system.
But here in Knox County, with every media outlet live-streaming Eric Boyd’s trial, the decades old words of Warren Ellis ring true:
“You must like it when people with authority they never earned lie to you.”
UPDATE: George Thomas took the stand yesterday afternoon and predictably attempted to pin every detail of the murders on Eric Boyd. People in attendance have told me Thomas’s testimony came off as inauthentic and unreliable. The jury was excused for the day at the close of direct.
Cross examination this morning saw Boyd’s counsel highlight the inconsistencies in Thomas’s testimony both in this trial and in previous trials. The consensus from those I’ve spoken with is that Thomas has zero credibility at this point, but Defense counsel never refuted Boyd’s presence at the crime scene.